More than half of 16 to 25 year-olds surveyed by the charity in the region said they thought social media creates an “overwhelming pressure” to succeed, while 49 per cent say that comparing their lives to their friends on social media makes them feel “inadequate”. A similar amount said they feel more anxious about their future when comparing themselves to others on social media.
Overall wellbeing amongst young people has now dropped to its lowest level since the Youth Index study launched 10 years ago.
Sam Brookes, 24, from Sheffield, started to experience extreme mood swings, resulting in frequent paranoia, anxiety and self-harm during his time in sixth form, ultimately taking several overdoses.
“I began to believe that I would never accomplish anything vocationally beyond periods of being well,” he said. “I finished my A-levels two years later, managing to get good grades, but made three attempts at university courses I eventually had to leave, had to leave several jobs and in the end became so disheartened and pessimistic that to ever get and be able to hold down a job began to seem impossible.”
Mr Brookes said he got only the “motivation to get out of bed every morning” after he joined Team, a programme from The Prince’s Trust that builds the confidence and employability skills of unemployed young people. He says the worst effect of long-term unemployment is that it “robs you of your self-belief”.
“It can be very isolating, and you look at what others are posting on social media and, although deep down you know they’re only showing one side of their lives, when you’re struggling with social anxiety, social media can compound that,” he added.
UK chief executive of The Prince’s Trust, Nick Stace, said: “Since the Youth Index launched a decade ago, social media has become omnipresent in the lives of young people and this research suggests it is exacerbating what is already an uncertain and emotionally turbulent time. Young people will only realise their full potential if they believe in themselves and define success in their own terms.”
Instagram boss Adam Mosseri has said the social media platform is “not yet where it needs to be” on its handling of self-harm and suicide content.
He said a comprehensive review had been launched by the firm into its policies, and it would begin adding “sensitivity screens” to images of self-harm.
His comments come as technology firms face increasing scrutiny, with Health Secretary Matt Hancock saying last week that legislation may be needed to police disturbing content on social media.
Today marks Safer Internet Day, and North Yorkshire Police are offering young people advice on staying safe online with talks and activities across the county.